To me, an academic trained to assess the tactics individuals use to negotiate society, an individual tasked with helping to demystify our population’s interactive fictions, words’ greatest faculty is their ability to illuminate communal goings-on. Words support social movements. Contrariwise, they reinforce status quos. That is, they both inspire the maintenance of traditions and the implementation of change.
Words’ potency is known and respected. Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan, The Chofetz Chaim, devoted his time on this world, to reminding the rest of us that our misuse of words has a greater bearing on our souls than does any other form of our going astray. His Sefer Chafetz Chaim, his book on hilchos lashon hara, the laws of improper speech, has become a classic.
By the same token, in contemporary times, Rabbi Zev Leff has become known for his talks about words’ influence on reality. Check out his YouTube video, “The Power of Words.” 1
It seems that no matter the generation or the medium, our sages appreciate that public and private culpabilities ought to encompass answerability in the realm of rhetoric. They know that words are compelling and that it is essential for us to claim responsibility for our minds’ progenies.
What’s more, words not only guide our actions in this world and our reward, or lack thereof, in the world to come, but they also guide the presence of, and every reception conceded to, additional sets of words. Whether or not these “supplemental” bodies of concepts, in turn, originate with us or with other people, these bodies function as: tacit commodities, indicators of wealth/social echelon, and proof of cultural validity. It follows that we writers are contemporaneously burdened by and liberated because of our relative verbal facility.
Besides enduring as reading materials, writers’ statements become signs, i.e. meaning-making representations of complex interpersonal sensibilities. More exactly, these corpuses get regarded as gifts, as status symbols, and as illusory referents to important polity moments. Similarly, these corpuses are held up as robust conveyors of both simple and magnitudinous clusters of ideas.
This utility of writing, this connection among proffered assemblages of viewpoints, among congregations of perceptions, is the essence of “intertextuality.”
Intertextuality, the fitting together of complimentary and competing notions, is colored by: authors’ intentions, publishers’ beliefs, and audiences’ expectations. All of these factors power ways in which we writers build documents.
Notwithstanding why we write, authors are aware of and make provisions for our papers’ attachment to our existent works, and for our works’ attachment to other creators’ existent works. Whenever our words are broadcast, put into print, displayed online, or distributed through some stand-in stream, some of us try to manifest control over how they build or destroy worlds and how their relevance is perceived. Some of us do not.
Mull over the fact that invented narratives can quicken murderous impulses, as demonstrated by John Hinckley Jr.s’ Taxi Driver-inspired assignation attempt on President Ronald Reagan. Word constructions can stir other types of hostilities, too, as established by Uncle Tom’s Cabin’s contribution to the American Civil War. In reverse, The Diary of a Young Girl, which did nothing to deter the Holocaust, creditably recorded what it was like to suffer as a European Jew in that period, thus making truth about that genocide universally understandable. As well, despite the fact that The Meaning of Relativity was inaccessible to laymen, that volume had great sway over contemporary science and scientists.
Granted, among authors’ amassed writings, cerebral designs whose framework and scope are challenging are more arduous to associate with outlier efforts than are comparatively parsimonious projects. Nonetheless, formed pieces are typically linked to auxiliary ones as well as leave their mark on seemingly unrelated effects. “Difficult” is not “impossible;” we writers must remain mindful of the agencies through which our products refer to other commodities of expression and of the agencies of other commodities of expression that correlate to our own.
We writers must also remain conscious of how our labors meet or fail to meet our issuers’ agendas. Although self-publishing, easy-to-use Internet modes of circulation, and further modern-day verities have altered our reliance on external promotion, most of us still look outside of ourselves to spread our compositions. Accordingly, it behooves us to gratify our producers.
Sadly, because of this willingness of ours to steer our writing’s intertextuality to meet our publishers’ wishes, the nature and kind of our incautious dealings seem to be growing. Even though we “persons of print” used to get stupid over cable television, telecommunications, and film, presently, we wordies promote forays into the foolhardiness of: smartphones, palmtop PCs, electronic organizers, and E-readers. Meaning, to achieve a connectedness to other texts, we allow ourselves to go bonkers over convergent media even when investing in mass media or in more simple forms of dispersion would suffice in helping us feel united with our other writings and with the writings of other folks.
Ben Sisario claims, in The New York Times’ “Now on Stage: The Countdown to a New Taylor Swift Album,” that “in the three years since Ms. Swift’s  album, the music industry has changed so drastically that much of the old playbook [for networking lucrative goods with each other] no longer applies. Nowadays, streaming is 63 percent of the market, and the success of subscription platforms like Spotify and Apple Music have turned the fortunes of the entire industry around.”2 In short, happy co-existence amid creative works, whether heard or read, is much more premeditated than it used to be.
To wit, today, large numbers of us word gatherers wait for “just the right” press to bring out each of our volumes, while concurrently and calculatedly adjusting what we say, how we say it, and where we say it, to suit the constraints of the media employed by our commissioners. Writers do play to publishers’ caprices.
Beyond personal visions and manufacturers’ aspirations, the shaping of literature, especially those works intended to be integrated into the universe of confirmed writings, relies on our estimates of our audiences’ expectations. Be it for profit, for popularity, or for other reasons, we authors often elect to dovetail our manuscripts’ language, tones, themes, points of view, and their other literary elements in order to placate the anticipated desires of our readers.
Even so, in our eagerness to please, we often err. “Has” writs in “Genre Expectations vs Audience Expectations,” that “the main reason why mislabeling and marketing to wrong audiences can be problematic [is, ironically that it] piss[es] off readers[, causing] disappointment and even upset and [can] be more damaging in the long run”3 than our pitching our wares to fewer viewers. To keep people buying our writing, we writers are well-advised to limit the guises under which we promote it.
In a nutshell, musters of words are more convincing than guns. Yet, those assemblies’ actualization as interdependent vessels necessitates us weighing our purposes, our publishers’ directives, and our audiences’ expressed needs and interests. Aggregations of words that are positioned at the vanguard of our cultural milieu might or might not transform or rectify our culture. However; aggregations of words that positions selves in the crux of prevailing contexts, will almost always make a difference.
1. Rabbi Zev Leff. “The Power of Words.” Hidabroot – Torah and Judaism. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0--bolIJUPI. Retrieved Apr. 22 2018.
2. Ben Sisario. “Now on Stage: The Countdown to a New Taylor Swift Album. The New York Times. 3 Sept. 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/03/business/media/taylor-swift.html. Retrieved Dec. 8 2017.
3. Has. “Genre Expectations vs Audience Expectations.” Bookpushers. Jul. 10, 2011. http://thebookpushers.com/2011/07/10/genre-expectations-vs-audience-expectations/. Retrieved Apr. 24, 2018.